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Bit of a rocky road north

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Jean’s Mom, who’d never been quite the same after a stroke in February, passed away in late August. The family decided to have a small memorial service. The date selected was Saturday, November 5.


We left around 10:15 AM, intending to stop over in Sudbury on the way to Timmins. The drive started uneventfully enough; we were diverted by the audiobook of State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny.

But after an hour and a half or so, Jean noted that the car seemed to be losing power periodically, during which it was quite reluctant to accelerate. Maybe just gas quality? he suggested. As we Googled to find the nearest gas station, I suggested options. We still had time before we really had to be anywhere. Maybe we could get the car looked at. Maybe we could rent a car for this trip.

Well, let’s just try gas first, Jean suggested.

And indeed, filling it up did make it run smoother.

For another couple hours, anyway. But then it started doing the losing power thing again. Hills were a problem.

But we got ourselves to Sudbury, and filled up the car again—only that didn’t seem to make it as happy this time. We went for an early dinner at Bella Vita Cucina, and had some perfectly decent Italian food. (No CO2 reading; I was distracted. But it wasn’t very busy.) And then we drove to our hotel, the Travelway Inn. (CO2 reading not incredible for an empty room, but I ran a HEPA filter.)


Our hotel included breakfast, but only if we ate in their dining room. That meal didn’t seem “worth the Covid risk”, if you will, so we decided to drive to Starbucks.

But our car had other ideas. Basically, it wasn’t going anywhere. It would start, but refuse to go, then stall out. And repeat.

We got some quickie breakfast from the hotel lobby, and worked on trying to find a garage that would repair our car. Garages are busy these days, and the first one we called (the one Jean’s sister uses) refused to take it; the second said they wouldn’t have time to look at it until November 22. Then Jean got the idea of calling the Nissan dealer (our car is an Infinity), where, they said, they could probably look at it later in the week.

We then filled in a form for a rental car, to pickup that day, and return the following weekend.

And we called CAA to tow our car.

Car on tow truck

Jean was able to ride to the garage with the tow truck driver, but I had to take a taxi there. My driver was pretty chatty and mentioned, among other things, that a big accident had shut down part of the highway between Timmins and Sudbury.

Jean and I reunited at the garage where, he reported, contrary to what was said on the phone, our car might not be looked at until November 22 (!). Then on our long walk to the car rental place (if we’d been smart, we would have kept that cab), we decided we’d ask about either returning the rental in Waterloo, or keeping it until November 26.

Turns out both options were about the same price, and since we’d have to get back to Sudbury to pick up our car anyway, it seemed to make more sense to extend the rental time.

Our next stop was lunch at Di Gusto, which was very good. (No CO2 reading; again too distracted, but again it wasn’t too busy.) Then we had time do a little hike before we met up with Jean’s sister at La Fromagerie. We enjoyed our deluxe charcuterie board. (CO2 was pretty good, averaging around 550.)

Chickadee we saw on our hike


In the shower the next morning, I heard a bunch of text messages arriving.

After toweling off, I saw that it was my catsitter reporting that one cat, Gus, wasn’t eating much and seemed to have something wrong with his eye. That it looked “cloudy”.

A bit later, she managed to get a closer look, and sent some photos. It didn’t look great! It seemed to be a spot above his eye, she said, that was causing issues.

I phoned our vet, who suggested forwarding them the photos so they could assess how urgently Gus needed to be looked at.

Meanwhile, we tried to get ourselves organized to leave for Timmins. We did get our Starbucks breakfast this day, and as we headed out of town, I recalled that cell service disappears at times on the highway between Sudbury and Timmins. So I warned catsitter and vet about that fact as well.

The vet’s office reached me when we were in a small town just outside Sudbury. They did feel that Gus should be seen that day if possible, setting a 1:30 appointment for him.

Now, Gus isn’t the easiest cat to bring to the vet. He’s big and squirmy, and tends to panic about being in a carrier. In the last couple trips I’d given him calming medication before vet visits, which had helped.

I called my catsitter. She was doing her remote, full-time job from my house; to take Gus to the vet in the afternoon would obviously mean missing some time from that. Not mention dealing with Gus. But, she said she didn’t have really critical meetings at that time. And while on the phone, she managed to give him the calming medication in his food.

So we drove on, listing to State of Terror (though I was having some trouble following the plot! Distracted.).

We stopped at midway point on the highway, mainly to use the washroom, but also—because there was a big Road Closed sign there.

We had completely forgotten the taxi driver’s warning about the highway closure. We got some advice from the locals about alternate routes, of which there were a couple, but both would add hours to the drive.

As we were mapping one out… They removed the Road Closed sign. One advantage to our delayed departure! I got a text from Dad asking about how we were managing the detour, so I was able to give him the good news.

And we drove on.

As vet appointment time rolled around, we were closer to Timmins and therefore reliable cell service. My catsitter texted that she managed to get Gus to the veterinary office.

The vet called as we were just pulling in at my Dad’s. Gus had an infected abscess from a cut (likely a cat scratch) above his eye. They needed to clean out all the puss (yuck!), and to do that, they had to sedate Gus. And then give him an antibiotic shot. I agreed to doing all that (and paying for it on our return).

And then we had lunch with Dad, which was great!

Late afternoon we talked to my catsitter again, after she’d retrieved Gus and brought him home. Everything had gone well with the procedure, but they suggested Gus wear a cone, and be isolated in his own room.

Well, Gus immediately got out of the cone and went to hide under the bed. We discussed and decided against isolating him, since we didn’t really think Mac (our other cat) would attack, since it’s not as though they were always fighting. What we were guessing happened is that they’d had an altercation (our catsitter had heard something overnight) as “misdirected aggression” toward an outdoor cat that been hanging around.

Gus and Mac at window
Mac and Gus like to hang out together at this open window, but if another cat jumps up on the ledge outside, there can be trouble…

And.. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We had a nice dinner with Dad. Jean then went out to visit with his other sister.


Weather-wise, it was pretty grim; solid rain, kind of cool. Jean’s family initially gathered at one brother’s house, then we all drove to the cemetery. Given the weather, the internment process was kept brief.

France and Come in rain by headstone

We then all headed a hall for a lunch gathering. First time in a number of years that so many of the family were together.

All of Mme Lefebvre’s children said a little something after lunch, but it was all pretty informal and family-focused. As per her wishes.

Jean and his Mom
Jean and his Mom

We then headed back to the house and hung out with Dad some more. Jean mentioned that he’d taken a large box of his mother’s old photographs, with the idea of (eventually) scanning the better ones for posterity. Dad said he had built an apparatus to assist with photo scanning, and Jean concluded that would be useful thing to have (as Dad no longer needed it). They then got talking cameras, and Jean also ended up with one of Dad’s (that Dad no longer needs). (Jean adapts older camera parts to digital photography.)

Jean and Dad

My brother and niece visited after supper, and it was great to spend some time with them.


My catsitter had expressed some concern about Gus’ recovery on Saturday, when the swelling was persisting and he still wasn’t eating as well, but this morning she texted that both items had improved.

We got away in pretty good time and, happily, there isn’t much to report about the drive home!

Gus looked really good when we got there. We’d have never known he’d had such a problem if we hadn’t been told. See the slightly bald patch over one eye? That was about it.

Gus with slightly injured eye
Beautiful photo of Gus that Jean took with my Dad’s camera

One thought on “Bit of a rocky road north

  1. I am worn out and anxious from reading this. I am sorry that you had to live this. Like any good tale, it wound up ok in the end. I am happy that it did for you (the car is pending, of course) and I thank you for writing it thus for us! Whew!

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